Editing the Windows Vista Registry
Editing the Windows Vista Registry with Regedit
When a computer is not working properly, there are situations where editing the registry is the best troubleshooting technique. My primary aim is to give you the skill, the practice, and above all, the confidence to launch regedit and change the registry settings. My secondary aim is to persuade you to take sensible precautions, for example, export at least that particular branch before editing any registry values.
As usual, I have lots of worked examples, which I urge you to try on your own machine. Each registry tweak has two aims; to solve a specific problem, and to provide general learning points, which help you to master regedit. Most of the tweaks work equally well on Vista, XP and Windows Server registries, where there are differences I will explain what happens in each operating system.
Windows Vista Registry Topics
Introduction to the Registry
There will be times when your research reveals that there is simply no GUI to configure a particular Vista setting. Consequently, the only hope of solving the problem is to edit a value in the registry. Another reason to acquire confidence at editing the registry, is so that you can repair a defective machine remotely.
Officially, you edit the Vista registry by adding keys, or modifying values, colloquially, this process is called 'tweaking the registry', or 'hacking the registry'. If I have a hidden agenda it is that in general, learning should be fun, and in particular, that tweaking the registry should be satisfying. To reinforce this 'let's have fun' message, many of my examples also have amusing anecdotes.
To become expert at any task you need to acquire a range of skills. Because the registry is live, with no 'Simulate' button, and no safety catch, I have arranged the following techniques as a progression.
Here is my sequence for mastering the registry along with examples of how to develop the corresponding technique.
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I will be giving you clear instructions to help you master tweaking the registry. Nevertheless, do take precautions. The best defence against a mistake would be to experiment with the registry on a test machine. My favorite technique for recovering from mini-disasters is to export the registry key BEFORE I start editing values. What I do in regedit is click on the File menu, Export, Selected Branch. Every other expert will tell you to backup the System State before you begin.
Let us assume that your mission is to change a setting in Vista by using the registry editor.
Note 1: Unlike other Vista executables, if you type just the first few letters, 'reg' or 'reged', Vista does not auto-complete the name of the program, you have to type the full name - regedit.
Note 2: Another clue that amateurs are not supposed to open the registry, is that the special editor, Regedit, does not appear on any Vista menu.
Note 3: The actual executable is called regedit, but for backwards compatibility with NT 4.0, it also responds to the name of regedt32.
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Windows Vista Registry Tweaks: